Classification of cervical biopsy free-text diagnoses through linear-classifier based natural language processing

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1 Scopus citations


Routine cervical cancer screening has significantly decreased the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer. As selection of proper screening modalities depends on well-validated clinical decision algorithms, retrospective review correlating cytology and HPV test results with cervical biopsy diagnosis is essential for validating and revising these algorithms to changing technologies, demographics, and optimal clinical practices. However, manual categorization of the free-text biopsy diagnosis into discrete categories is extremely laborious due to the overwhelming number of specimens, which may lead to significant error and bias. Advances in machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), particularly over the last decade, have led to significant accomplishments and impressive performance in computer-based classification tasks. In this work, we apply an efficient version of an NLP framework, FastText™, to an annotated cervical biopsy dataset to create a supervised classifier that can assign accurate biopsy categories to free-text biopsy interpretations with high concordance to manually annotated data (>99.6%). We present cases where the machine-learning classifier disagrees with previous annotations and examine these discrepant cases after referee review by an expert pathologist. We also show that the classifier is robust on an untrained external dataset, achieving a concordance of 97.7%. In conclusion, we demonstrate a useful application of NLP to a real-world pathology classification task and highlight the benefits and limitations of this approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100123
Pages (from-to)100123
JournalJournal of Pathology Informatics
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Cervical biopsy
  • Computational pathology
  • FastText
  • Linear classifier
  • Machine learning
  • Natural language processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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